Along with the holidays, the end of the year brings the next crop of Oscar contenders. It remains to be seen whether this year’s award will go to a big budget flick like Interstellar or a sleeper indie film like Boyhood. As I was perusing the movie listings at my local theatre the other day, I started thinking about past Oscar winners. That got me mulling over Titanic, the 1997 winner for Best Picture. Although the film is notably overly sentimental, it has left an indelible mark on our public consciousness. Additionally, the actual tragedy that inspired the movie can teach us valuable lessons about dentist leadership or any other form of business management.
Building an Unsinkable Practice
Titanic was billed as an “unsinkable ship,” thanks in part to its fifteen watertight bulkheads. According to many experts and historians, however, this “safety feature” was actually the ship’s undoing. Water could easily get trapped, moving from one compartment to the other. Several of the shipbuilder’s competitors were already building vessels with features to overcome this fatal flaw.
This brings me to the first lesson to take away from the Titanic: learning from your competition. I’m not talking about stealing patented ideas or copying your fellow dentists in everything you do. However, if there is a particular dentist you admire (whether locally or elsewhere), look to see what he or she is doing that you could incorporate into your practice. Maybe she is participating in outreach programs to boost her practice’s name in the community. Perhaps he offers consistently short wait times, resulting in increased business growth. Adopting these or similar policies does not detract from the individuality of your own practice.
Preparing for Disaster
Titanic is known for being one of the deadliest maritime disasters. Sadly, however, it is only because of poor planning and disorganization that so many souls perished. The ship was carrying over 2000 passengers. However, it only had lifeboats for half of those individuals. Believing the ship was “unsinkable,” the White Star Line simply hadn’t prepared for the worst. Additionally, the evacuation process was marked by poor communication and a blithe refusal to believe that the worst was actually happening.
When I coach struggling dentists, I notice that their practices are marked by similar problems. All too often, dentists refuse to believe that the worst could happen. Frequently, they do not have financial plans in place, meaning they face constant monetary risks. They are also not able to give of their time and talents as freely, since they have a constant (even if unacknowledged) fear of financial disaster.
Financial plans are not only important for you; a solid financial foundation is the “lifeboat” for your team as well. If your practice flounders, it will affect your entire staff. When you have an established financial plan, it will protects your employees’ jobs and their families’ wellbeing. It will also result in a lower employee turnover rate. Team members are more likely to stick around when they feel confident about their jobs and professional futures.
Ultimately, proper communication may have prevented – or at least lessened – the disaster of the Titanic. If the shipbuilders had communicated with more engineering authorities, the ship may not have been so quick to sink. If the captain and officers had communicated more efficiently, they would not have lowered half-filled lifeboats, leaving thousands onboard ship. The same is true of a dental practice or any other business. Proper communication – with your patients, assistants, hygienists, and administrative team – is key to keeping your practice afloat.